3 Malaysians win landmark court case to cross-dress
KUALA LUMPUR: Three Malaysian Muslim transgenders on Friday won a landmark court ruling against a religious law banning them from cross-dressing in what activists called a victory for human rights in a conservative Southeast Asian nation.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the Shariah law in Negeri Sembilan state was discriminatory as it failed to recognize men diagnosed with gender identity issues. It said the law deprived transgenders of “the right to live with dignity.”
“This is degrading, oppressive and inhumane,” said Judge Mohamad Hishammuddin Mohamad Yunus. Hishammuddin said the Islamic law was aimed at curbing homosexual and lesbian activities that led to the spread of HIV. The present case “has nothing to do with homosexuality,” but was about Muslim men with a medical condition, he added.
A lower court dismissed the case in 2012, saying the three transgenders must adhere to Islamic law because they were Muslim and born male. The three, who have been certified by doctors to have gender identity issues, appealed the decision.
The state’s Islamic Religious Department could still appeal the ruling at the top Federal Court, although it wasn’t immediately clear if it plans to do so.
Aston Paiva, a lawyer for the three people, said the ruling will have wide Implications for Muslim transgenders in the country. It sets a precedent for high courts, which must follow the ruling if other Muslim transgenders challenge similar Islamic law in other states, he said, calling the case “historic.”
Transgender activists celebrate outside the Court of Appeals in Putrajaya after the ruling on Friday.